Montana Realtor Diaries
Photo-Illustration: Lined; Photos: Getty Images, Shutterstock
In this bi-weekly series,Realtor Logs“, hear us people in the center of a wilder market than ever. Today, an hour-by-hour glimpse into the working world of Chad, 58, an electrical broker in southwestern Montana.
6 a.m.. I get up and check my phone, have my first cup of coffee, and respond to people who were up at midnight by emailing me. I have no problem with late night emails or any other contact from my clients. My husband sometimes rolls his eyes and I’m like, “What?! Maybe there are a few awkward phone calls or midnight emails, all for a…$30,000 check! I mean come on. I more than agree with that!
9am I’m on the phone with a nervous salesman trying to explain the latest crazy change in real estate here. Over the past few weeks, it’s as if someone has turned off the tap. Things in Montana have gone from absolutely crazy to pretty dead!
This client is freaking out because her neighbors’ home — a mid-century ranch near Bozeman — sold in one day, for $200,000 over asking price, all in cash, there’s barely three months. And now the ads just aren’t selling.
I try to tell them that you can’t just sit around and sulk. You must come up with a plan. You organize a broker’s opening – where it’s like “Stop for lunch and a raffle!” You go old fashioned and market your home very creatively to try and make it stand out.
Everyone wants to blame the real estate agent. But I’m taking it home. Let’s reevaluate price, condition, location and marketing. Also, curb appeal. How can we make it the most beautiful house possible? For the past two years, we haven’t needed to use stagers at all. Homes sold without lifting a finger. But given the state of things today, I suggest staging this house, or at least staging it virtually – which means your photographer walks in and takes pictures of the house with nothing in it, then the scenographer Photoshops into the furniture. My salesperson is open to this idea.
10am I’m on the phone with another salesperson, and I have to be honest with her that her house smells like a litter box. If I can’t tell customers the truth about these things, then who can? We decide to move everything cat related to his garage. It might help, but I’m not sure. Cats are tough when you’re a broker. Sometimes they poop in the bed because they are angry that you are showing their house.
11am We have an office meeting. Nobody is worried. We’re all seasoned brokers and we’ve all been through recessions. The truth is people are always buying and selling, it’s just not that frantic. And maybe that’s a good thing. You can actually take a client to lunch now.
Midday I send my assistant to the Department of Natural Resources to find a well log – when a house has a well instead of city water you need to get all the info on it so the buyer knows the condition . I’m still trying to find different things for him to do, tomorrow I might send him off with an appraiser.
1 p.m. I’m showing a house to a family from Los Angeles. It would be a second property for them. Many Californians come here looking for a second or third home. Everyone wants a rustic yet luxurious log cabin in the mountains, but they also want someone to remove the bears and protect them from the real world.
Or they want a high-end, all-glass, mid-century design concept where you can see sprawling lands, mountains, and forests from every window. This type of house will generate an unparalleled overbid.
This house is kind of like a basic modern McMansion. It’s 5,000 square feet for $5 million, near Bozeman. My clients want to walk through acres and streams. They keep calling it a ranch, but you really can’t call a property a ranch unless it has cows. It’s kind of funny because this customer wears a cowboy hat and isn’t a cowboy. Real cowboys usually wear baseball caps.
I have another family from LA who like to fly private, land right on the property I show them, and then let their dogs run wild. This is usually not a problem unless the property has rabbits – and it happened once. I thought I was having a heart attack. Fortunately, no rabbits died.
2:30 p.m. These customers don’t smell like this house, but I know they’ll find something. We get back in my car. Personally, I always drive people. I always take my old clients to lunch to get in touch with them. We always try to add that small town touch.
3 p.m.. I drive them past a few other options, even though these houses are all 25 minutes apart. There is so much inventory that is not moving. Night and day at this time last year. At this time last year we had people coming in every day on their own jets, or sending personal assistants to come and see the houses for them, and then offering all the money based on their assistant’s opinion personal. Some people bought more than one property at a time and then decided which one they wanted after owning them both.
Now the crickets. I don’t know why, exactly. I don’t think it’s the rise in interest rates because they’re mostly cash buyers. But Montana will always be hot. Things changed in real estate after A river crosses it came out of; after Yellowstone, we saw another big push. Movie stars and musician types live privately here, there are so many living here that no one knows. Nothing compares to the star power of Big Sky – an exclusive ski resort with properties for sale as well. Everyone who works there or has to sign an NDA so civilians like us don’t know what’s going on inside. But the celebrities are also found in nearby college towns like Bozeman and Missoula. They buy the megamansions with the square footage.
4:30 p.m. It’s a Friday afternoon, and I’m the only person in the office, all because I messed up someone’s name on the contract. Everyone in Montana wants to mountain bike, fish or hike, not work. It’s just the way we’re wired.
5:30 p.m. I happen to have a party to show in a log cabin tonight. The guests are locals with some family money – which unfortunately is the only type of local who can afford to stay here at the moment. You need at least $700,000 to get decent housing – 3 or 4 bedrooms – in these areas.
Small little log cabins have specific problems. For one thing, they attract flies. Flies lay their eggs in crevices. They come in when it’s cold outside and warm inside. So I already know, before I show this house, I’m going to have to suck up a few flies.
5:45 p.m. Ah, looks like I need to pull a dead mouse out of the tub too.
Everything is fine with me! It’s not unusual here. There are many small corpses around.
6:30 p.m. I think my customers are interested. They were a charming young family. Usually the only people who are rude or angry in Montana are those who are from here and are upset that a Californian can come in and buy a house when he can’t. It’s unfortunate, although I guess I sympathize.
7:30 p.m.. It’s been a long day, but I like working. I’ve never found anything I enjoy doing so much as selling real estate.
8 p.m. My phone is ringing. My husband gives me a look. I’m like, “Oh please! It takes two seconds to answer someone’s questions. Move on! So they need a pep talk after 7:30 at night. So what?! Go watch TV!”
10 p.m. I go to bed at 10 p.m. every night. Every night. I used to worry about not working late at night, but recently decided that whatever it is, I could handle it tomorrow.